PLANS to create one emergency hub in Dorset and close three of the county's community hospitals are all part of a greater strategy to balance the books amid a dire funding crisis in the NHS.

An investigation commissioned by campaign group 38 Degrees uncovered 44 Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) being drawn up across England to meet significant cuts.

Each area - known as a footprint - was asked to draw up a five-year plan by the end of June 2016, which had to include proposals to bring their area into financial balance within 2016-17. For England as a whole, this means cuts amounting to £2.3billion.

The plans must implement new models of care set out in the national NHS Five Year Forward View. Extra money, known as transformation funding, will be available to the 'best' plans - but only in areas where bosses have managed to balance their budgets.

It has now been revealed that the STP for Dorset, which was published in December last year, has helped form the basis for the ongoing Clinical Services Review.

Read the STP for Dorset here

The Clinical Services review proposes to designate Royal Bournemouth Hospital as the county’s major emergency hub and Poole Hospital for planned care with a 24-hour urgent care centre.

And the CCG’s governing body has also supported proposals for a shake-up of community hospitals that will see three of them close as part of the creation of a network of 'community hubs'

The STP also focuses on plans for 'prevention at scale' to take the burden off the NHS by helping people stay healthy.

This project includes:

  • plans to regenerate areas such as Boscombe, West Howe, Bourne Valley and Melcombe Regis
  • improving heating in vulnerable people's homes to reduce mental health problems and respiratory disease
  • earlier intervention for vulnerable children
  • creating better access to jobs and affordable housing 
  • shifting commuter behaviour away from cars and onto more active forms of travel
  • extending the LiveWell Dorset programme
  • more help for those with long term conditions like heart disease or diabetes

The STP also includes the creation of a 'network of community hubs' featuring 'mixed teams of health and care professionals providing care for people who have physical and mental health needs.' 

Those services will include: 

  • Routine care, screening, baby clinics and checks, contraception services and prevention advice
  • Rapid same-day access to GP-led urgent care, with on-site diagnostic testing including imaging and x-rays
  • Urgent and unplanned care
  • Secondary care consultations and minor procedures
  • Rehabilitation and services to support recovery after periods of ill-health
  •  24/7 crisis support to help people receive the urgent care they need without going into hospital

Tim Goodson, Chief Officer NHS Dorset CCG, said: "The three main areas of focus for Dorset are prevention at scale, which aims to prevent people from becoming unwell in the first place, integrated community services and acute networks - making sure acute services across the county are provided as one effective network.

"In Dorset work on the Clinical Services Review has been going on for some time and this will be the main way the local STP will be delivered.

"No decisions will be made until after we have taken public views into account during a full public consultation."

However 38 Degrees said an analysis of STPs "reveals far-reaching plans to close services, which appear to have had little input from patients and the public".

And as reported in the Daily Echo, watchdog Healthwatch Dorset has already expressed fears that NHS bosses are making decisions without listening to the public.

Director at 38 Degrees Laura Townshend said the findings show the NHS is "dangerously under-funded".

She said: "These proposed cuts aren't the fault of local NHS leaders. The health service is struggling to cope with growing black holes in NHS funding. These new revelations will be a test of Theresa May's commitment to a fully-funded National Health Service.

"The NHS belongs to all of us - so local people should get a say in any changes to their local services."